Active polysomes in the axoplasm of the squid giant axon

J Neurosci Res. 1991 Jan;28(1):18-28. doi: 10.1002/jnr.490280103.


Axons and axon terminals are widely believed to lack the capacity to synthesize proteins, relying instead on the delivery of proteins made in the perikaryon. In agreement with this view, axoplasmic proteins synthesized by the isolated giant axon of the squid are believed to derive entirely from periaxonal glial cells. However, squid axoplasm is known to contain the requisite components of an extra-mitochondrial protein synthetic system, including protein factors, tRNAs, rRNAs, and a heterogeneous family of mRNAs. Hence, the giant axon could, in principle, maintain an endogenous protein synthetic capacity. Here, we report that the squid giant axon also contains active polysomes and mRNA, which hybridizes to a riboprobe encoding murine neurofilament protein. Taken together, these findings provide direct evidence that proteins (including the putative neuron-specific neurofilament protein) are also synthesized de novo in the axonal compartment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Cell Compartmentation
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Decapodiformes / metabolism*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Probes
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Ribosomes / metabolism*


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • RNA Probes
  • RNA, Messenger